On a recent Dan Carlin's "Common Sense" podcast, James Burke claimed that Apollo program to land the man on the Moon cost less than what American women spent on lipstick in the same period of time.

Is that claim accurate?

Wikipedia lists Apollo program as 1961–1972.

  • 1
    There's no transcript for podcast published, but nearly identical claim can be found in comments here referencing the same person making the claim in the different venue.
    – user5341
    Dec 9, 2016 at 4:34
  • 'Globalizing the Beauty Business before 1980' present here-hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/06-056.pdf provides a ball park value of 1184 million dollars for the whole US cometic market in 1959 but the values for lipstick are not provided :( Dec 9, 2016 at 8:37
  • 1
    It seem unlikely, especially if you compare the numbers in thespacereview.com/article/1579/1 with those in slide 3 of slideshare.net/raggi73/… (though you need to take into account inflation and retail markup)
    – Henry
    Dec 9, 2016 at 8:56

2 Answers 2


According to U.S. Industrial Outlook , referring to 1967 and 1968:

Also ringing up good growth were lipstick and eye make-up, with sales rising to $243 million and $102 million respectively, from $218 and $89 million.

According to New Product Development

The Apollo program cost approximately $21.349 billion

So, no.

  • 1
    @Murphy I don't need to because all values are values from the time of the Apollo program
    – DavePhD
    Dec 9, 2016 at 13:40
  • 2
    $21.349B / 11 years = $194M/year. And $243M was apparently spent on lipstick 1 year during that time period. Assuming these source numbers are good you seem to be missing the crucial step of accounting for the fact that $243M is what they spent on lipstick in ONE year, whereas $21B was what they spent over 11 years.
    – LCIII
    Dec 9, 2016 at 18:11
  • 2
    @LCIII where did you learn that?!?! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billion $21.349B / 11 years = $1.94 B/year = $1940 M/year.
    – DavePhD
    Dec 9, 2016 at 18:26
  • 3
    LCIII's arithmetic was wrong, but the basic problem of this answer comparing a single year's sales with 11 year's expenditures stands.
    – jscs
    Dec 10, 2016 at 14:32
  • 2
    @DavePhD the definition of "theoretical" here appears to have gone utterly off the rails. I've had answers accused of being "theoretical" for containing multiplication. I really wish I could see which member of the moderation team is responsible for that kind of crap.
    – Murphy
    Dec 12, 2016 at 12:26

ok, the appolo program cost about $110 billion in 2010 dollars


Apollo ran from 1961 to 1972 to call it 11 years so about 10 billion 2010 dollars per year.

User pericles316 linked a document giving estimates of the entire US cosmetics market in 1976 dollars.


I'm using an inflation calculator to convert from 1976 dollars to 2010 dollars.

year - 1976$ - 2010$

1950 - 560 - 2,146

1959 - 1,184 - 4,537.40

1966 - 2,430 - 9,312.41

1976 - 5,670 - 21,728.95

It's not a straight line if you plot those points but its' not too far off so it doesn't seem unreasonable to assume that the change between those years was reasonably smooth.

So at the start of the Apollo program the US was spending about half the average yearly budget of the apollo program on cosmetics by 1972 the US was probably spending a fair bit more per year on cosmetics than the average yearly budget of the apollo program.

So the total spending on cosmetics in that time period was probably pretty close to the total spending on the Apollo program.

So, how much was likely lip products?

The modern market is going to be a bit different but probably not by many orders of magnitude.

in 2014 the US lip cosmetics market was $1.4 billion


The total cosmetics market was 58.7 billion.


So for context in 2014 lip cosmetics were about 2% of the cosmetics market.

I can't make a 100% certain statement but based on the above it seems unlikely that lip cosmetics were close to 100% of the 1960's cosmetics market.


It seems likely the entire US cosmetics market could have been slightly larger than the total spending on the Apollo program in the same time period but we don't have exact numbers so can't be 100% sure.

It's extremely unlikely that American women spent more than the cost of the Apollo program on lipstick in the same period of time.

  • 3
    I wonder if the author meant entire cosmetics market but just said "lipstick" for emphasis. Great research!
    – user5341
    Dec 9, 2016 at 15:42
  • 1
    @user5341 it seems quite plausible.
    – Murphy
    Dec 9, 2016 at 15:58

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .